With eight days to go until Election Day, a new survey indicates an extremely close race for Florida's 29 electoral votes.
According to a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday, 50% of likely voters in the Sunshine State say they are backing Republican nominee Mitt Romney, with 49% supporting President Barack Obama. The former Massachusetts governor's one point margin is well within the survey's sampling error.
"The results are unchanged from a one-point margin for Romney in mid-October, except for each candidate gaining a percentage point and the number of truly undecided voters dwindling away to almost nothing," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
The survey indicates that there is a slightly larger pool of persuadable voters, often called "uncommitted voters" in this election cycle.
"Roughly five percent of Florida's likely voters say they are truly undecided or have a preference but have not completely made up their minds. Those are the voters in whose hands rests the outcome in the Sunshine State - and possibly the national outcome as well," adds Holland.
According to the poll, a large gender gap has re-opened in Florida, with 55% of men supporting Romney and 54% of women favoring Obama. Generational and income gaps appear as well, with Obama doing better among younger and lower-income voters and Romney ahead among those 50 and older and among those making more than $50,000 per year.
President George W. Bush won Florida in his 2004 re-election, but Obama narrowly captured the state in his 2008 victory over Sen. John McCain. This cycle Florida has once again been getting tons of attention during the general election, with the candidates making frequent visits to the Sunshine State. Romney held three rallies in the state on Saturday. The president was scheduled to headline a rally Monday morning in Orlando, but instead returned to Washington, D.C. to monitor federal emergency preparations for Hurricane Sandy.
The Obama and Romney campaigns are also spending big bucks on get-out-the-vote efforts and to run television commercials in the state. The two presidential campaigns, the party committees, and the super PACs and other independent groups supporting the candidates, have shelled out more than $130 million to run ads on broadcast TV in Florida since April 10, the unofficial start of the general election. That's according to data provided to its clients by Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), which tracks campaign advertising.
Political junkies will recall that Ralph Nader's minor-party candidacy in 2000 is widely credited with taking enough votes from Al Gore to allow George W. Bush to eventually claim the state. Could that happen again this year?
It's tough to tell, but it is intriguing to note that when three minor party candidates are included in a separate horse race question, a 50%-49% margin for Romney becomes a 48%-48% tie, with Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green party candidate Jill Stein claiming one percent apiece and Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode coming in with less than one-half of one percent.
"Statistically, there is no difference between 50%-to-49% and 48%-to-48%, but it does illustrate the potential effect of the minor-party candidates in this extremely close race," adds Holland, who also warns that "close elections are inherently unpredictable - and elections in which a single percentage point separates the two candidates are even tougher, if not impossible, to forecast."
The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International, from October 25-28 (entirely after the final presidential debate), with 1,010 adults, including 914 registered voters and 770 likely voters, questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error for likely voters is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.